Marcophiles: On the beach – The do-dos and the don’ts

CHRIS CURLE
Shorebirds on Marco Beach take flight after their resting time was disrupted by a camera-toting tourist. Disturbing the birds on the beach is illegal. Andrew Townsend / Special to the Eagle

Shorebirds on Marco Beach take flight after their resting time was disrupted by a camera-toting tourist. Disturbing the birds on the beach is illegal. Andrew Townsend / Special to the Eagle

Nancy Richie, Marco's Environmental Specialist, is spearheading the new beach stewards project on Marco Island. Chris Curle / Eagle Correspondent

Nancy Richie, Marco's Environmental Specialist, is spearheading the new beach stewards project on Marco Island. Chris Curle / Eagle Correspondent

Now that the City of Marco Island will have a team of volunteers to help beachgoers have a good experience there while not intruding on wildlife or other people, we wondered about our knowledge, and yours, on beach dos and don’ts.

So we asked Marco Environmental Specialist Nancy Richie some questions visitors might have and that the beach docents might have to answer. Such as:

“What’s wrong with walking or running through the flocks of birds on the beach. They can just fly to get out of the way, right?”

Nancy: “The birds have migrated thousands of miles and are resting and feeding on our beaches before they head south or north on their flights. To constantly agitate or move the birds makes them use up much-needed energy stores. Then when they finally leave, they may not have enough energy to make the migration.

“It would be like someone driving a lawn mower through your living room while you are trying to take a nap on the couch after flying half way around the world.”

“Why shouldn’t we feed the birds?”

Nancy: “Some people think it’s fun think they’re doing a good thing for the birds. But no wildlife needs to be fed or helped to find food.

“Shorebirds eat fish and invertebrates and do not need crackers or bread to supplement their diet. Feeding birds, and other wildlife attracts other predators and makes an animal dependent on humans. If the bird, or other wildlife, is immature and learning to feed and hunt but is fed by a person, it may not learn on its own and eventually may not make it.”

Look, conchs everywhere! Let’s make chowder!

“What’s wrong with collecting shells?”

Nancy: You can collect shells, just not “live” shells. Live shells contain living organisms, either the animal that created the shell or an animal that is using the shell as a protective home, such as a hermit crab. Always check inside a shell to see if there is ‘someone’ in it. If unsure, leave it on the beach!”

“Why can’t we take our dogs to the beach?”

Nancy: “I love dogs and I love the beach, but our beach, with all its wildlife species, is just not compatible with dogs. Dogs naturally disturb and run at birds. Just seeing a four-legged creature alarms a nesting/resting shorebird and/or a sea turtle that would want to nest.

“There also are issues about waste clean up, leashed or unleashed, and disturbance to other beachgoers who are not as fond of dogs as the pet owner.”

“Why are some areas of the beach roped off?”

Nancy: “The area permanently posted is the Big Marco Pass Critical Wildlife Area. It’s for habitat conservation and bird protection for resting, feeding and foraging shorebirds.

“This is one of the top four “flyways” for worldwide bird migration and habitat for dozens of protected/listed shorebirds such as plovers, skimmers terns and others.

“The temporary posting from mid April to August is to protect nests, eggs and the flightless young shorebirds.”

Lights out at 9 p.m.

“Why must we keep beach area lights off on summer nights?”

Nancy: “May through August is Loggerhead Sea Turtle nesting and hatching season. Artificial lights disorient the nesting female turtles and later the hatchlings that naturally follow moonlight and starlight reflecting off the gulf.”

For more information contact Nancy Richie at nrichie@cityofmarcoisland.com or 239-389-5003. And thanks to our fledgling beach stewards.

Chris Curle is a former news anchor for CNN and for ABC-TV stations in Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Houston. E-mail chris@chriscurle.com. Don is a former ABC News correspondent and bureau chief and a former news anchor for CNN and ABC-TV, in Atlanta. His Farmer File column appears Fridays in the Naples Daily News. E-mail: don@donfarmer.com.

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 4

mrz333 writes:

We live on an island with great beaches. I see so much of the beach vacant. As a resident and a dog owner I can't share the beach with my "kids" 2 yellow labs. I think it's a lot of bunk to say that dogs, if confined to a special area, would somehow disturb the Eco-system. Meanwhile, the restricted access essentially gives up a great portion of the beach to residents in high-rise buildings. On this topic, at least, I wish you would consider "us".

marco97 writes:

Nancy, tell me why there are no more fish in the lake at Mackle park and why they put that big drain pipe from the RO plant that empty's into the lake. And why they closed the outlet from the lake to the canal. What happened to the ducks at the park, dogs chase them away maybe.

blogsmog writes:

in response to marco97:

Nancy, tell me why there are no more fish in the lake at Mackle park and why they put that big drain pipe from the RO plant that empty's into the lake. And why they closed the outlet from the lake to the canal. What happened to the ducks at the park, dogs chase them away maybe.

Marco97 you are way too observant for this island... prepare for your name to be dragged thru the mud.(see stand operating procedure for the Marco Syndicate)

ancientmariner writes:

Nancy is absolutely correct about dogs on the beach, especially during the times when birds are resting and nesting. It's bad enough watching people violate the small amount of space that the birds occupy. Also, this beachgoer would prefer not to step in dog poop, thanks very much.

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